(Page 2 of 2)
So how did the company make money with malfunctioning machines? One income source was product maintenance: like copiers today, parts wore out and replacements had to be made. The company also leased machines to customers, which allowed it to depreciate the copiers.
In addition to technical problems with its products, Haloid faced competition in the office copier market. In 1953 RCA introduced “a small, moderately priced office machine that made copies xerographically,” and executives at Haloid were quite worried that all their research and development would go for naught. But RCA’s model had one problem: it required a special coated paper, whereas Haloid’s model copied onto plain office paper. (Still, Carlson respected RCA’s development, calling it “the second best way to do copying.”)
In another discouraging development, two years before the successful 914 copier appeared, the consulting firm Arthur D. Little pronounced doom on the project. In a report produced for IBM, Little “concluded that total demand, now and in the future, could be satisfied by a maximum of a few thousand machines — not enough to make production worthwhile.” Three years later, however, Haloid (now called Haloid Xerox) was vindicated: between 1959 and 1961, its revenue doubled because of copier sales.
And that, briefly, is David Owen’s portrait of how an obscure technology from an obscure inventor produced by a once-obscure company brought about the office copier. Although his book might be too technical for some, Owen presents a clear and understanding view of Carlson and his invention. Much as I hate to admit it, I’m now rather fond of The Beast.